Guest Post by Scott Bondurant

It’s awfully hard to put experiencing the Challenge into words, although a large number of folks have done a fantastic job doing just that on the blog site.

I’m humbled to have been able to participate in something as transcendant as the Challenge.  Spending a day riding through the constant rain & headwinds of tropical storm Debbie, as well as climbing unexpected & unforgiving hills (Himalayan mountains for Steph) would normally be a pretty nasty ordeal.  Instead, yesterday was a breeze.  When riding with Steph, there is an empowering awareness that whatever nature might throw at us today, is nothing compared to what life has thrown at Steph.

It’s also amazing how the Challenge instantly bonds those involved — I’ll always feel a kinship with Mead, Greg & Don, along with Lincoln, Maria, Alex and a little less directly with everyone that has participated along the way.

What happened to Mark and how he has responded has a surreal and enlivening feel to it.  Perhaps it is because we encounter so few truly transcendent experiences in our lives.

Steph—I’m grateful to be your friend and indebted for the opportunity to have shared part of your journey by participating in the Challenge.

You ‘da man,

Scott

Joel Press-Guest Blogger

Louisiana to Mississippi to Alabama to (almost) Florida

As I sit here at the airport in Pensacola after spending the last five days riding
with Steph (and a host of other wonderful people) I am trying to figure out how to
describe the journey. Maybe a better way is just to use words to describe Steph.

Strength. Willpower. Determination. Dedication. Steadfast. Extraordinary.
Bravery. Fearlessness. Tenacity. Grit. Mettle. Resolve. Fortitude. Genuine. Gracious.
Perseverance. Lots of Determination. Energetic. Relentless. Single-Mindedness. Did

Courage.

I mention Courage? Focused. Driven. Committed. Persistence. Resilient. Tireless.

Driven. Incredible Determination. Tremendous Courage. Devoted. Hard working.
Sharing. Engaging. Warm. Friendly. Stephstrong. ( I think that is a word now.)
Funny. My hero.

Somehow, words just don’t say enough.

JP
June 20, 2012

debbie kicking our butt

it was mead, my friend scott bondurant who joined us for the day and i starting out. what a day 8 inches of rain and sustained 25 mph headwinds, it came down in sheets, we could hardly see at times, add hills that were as steep as we have seen since san diego and that was just the morning. the afternoon brought a time change to eastern time, darker skies, and more of the same weather. we were joined by don miller and greg van schaack, they had dressed for he weather and jumped right in. the good news is rain and wind kept temp. down.
the storm was right on us and thunder and tornado warning brought us in at 36 miles. the storm is slow moving, going to be more of the same tomorrow.
we are inching to the end, my foot pressure sore opened, we took pictures and have talked to md, we will know more in am, keeping it dry.
be well,
steph

tropical storm debbie

we lost rob and andy to early flights, said goodbye to ron,wade,jeff,jon and leslie as we borded the rv and miday lost the schoders group and kristen.
it was mead and i with debbie and she was a bitch…….nonstop rain and 25 mile an hour headwinds, we pressed and pressed knocked out a tough 50.
i am clearly having an infection issue with my foot and that could slow us down. my best guess is tuesday finish but do not hold me to it.
more of same tomorrow, party with debbie.
be well,
steph

2 day review

time is flying, yesterday was a really late start as we spent the morning sending photo’s of injured foot back to RIC for their guidence, the way to treat an infected pressure sore on foot iso stay off it completely and put no pressure on it.
so we slice up 3 pairs of shoes until we got the hole right, redrilled the cleat for my shoe into the heal, wrapped it up and put it into the shoe, hurt like hell, but can pedal. drove to where we finished and kept going. we were joined in the afternoon by friends from home, ron schutz, mead montgomery and wade Fetzer, it was hot and windy but we managed 27 miles. we say goodbye to jim and beth myhnier, a great help. my friend rob schorder, his sons scott and michael joined by charlie palmer as well as good friend from RIC kristen and buddy rob brock arrived that night.
we were a big group but lincoln had everyone ready to go in minutes. the morning was nice, good pavement but strong headwinds, we made fare time and were met on the road by andrew flynn in from chicago after overnight delay in charlotte. great to have everyone together, jeff riding point which is really group leader and jon riding the newly created position of scout.
we broke for lunch as the heavens opened, lincoln had lunch and chairs under the tent in seconds. as we rode off into the rain, two things happened, andy found an ipad on the side of the road, tracked down the owner and they were able to pick it up. we were also met on the road by jerry sanford who leads a bike club east of houston. we met jerry a few weeks ago when he graciously hosted us for dinner. it was a pleasure to meet his wide and daughter as well.
we rolled a solid 52 miles.
be well,
steph

GUEST BLOGGER-HODGEMAN/ JIM COLLEY

Churches, “Our President” and the Wonder of a Two Lane Road

Steph’s ride has been emotional for me as I am sure that it has been for those reading this.
When Steph went down in 2007, I was terrified I might lose a friend forever and I was certain
that I had lost my riding partner with whom I had logged so many of the most pleasurable hours
of my life. I do not consider myself much of a blogger, but, I have enjoyed reading the posts
of others throughout the entirety of the Stephan Challenge. Thanks to all of those that have
brought the Challenge to life. Here is my small, though lengthy, contribution.

On Wednesday past, I completed my second leg of the Challenge. I fortuitously have ridden
in five states and was a bridge out and a ferry schedule away from a sixth. I provide some
observations and anecdotes.

I OBSERVED, first hand, that no operation as fluid as the Challenge succeeds without a strong
and steady helmsman like Lincoln and a cheerful and diligent crew like Maria, Antonio, Aggie,
and Shane. I LEARNED to appreciate the simple pleasure of a perfect spot for a picnic lunch
and a family fishing pond. I was REMINDED of the simple pleasure of a sugar cookie and plain
potato chips.

I OBSERVED that Pecan groves are flooded by elaborate irrigation systems and then allowed to
slowly dry out in the hot Texas sun. I learned that Cinco de Mayo is a major holiday in El Paso
and that waving to a camera while cleated to a pedal can be a recipe for a spill.

I LEARNED that Poplarville is the Blueberry Capital of Mississippi, and for that matter, that
blueberries grow in Mississippi. I LEARNED that Bayou du Batre is the FRESH seafood capital
of Alabama. MY mind wandered for several miles wondering if there was a FROZEN seafood
capital of Alabama. I LEARNED that some people still refer to Jefferson Davis as “our president”
and that some of those people refer to armadillos as possums on a half shell.

I OCCUPIED myself trying to come up with the perfect country singer stage name. Each of the
side roads along the Challenge route are named for the person that lives on it. Compare those
names to the combination of your middle name and the street you grew up on and voila…Hodge
Fairfax!

I MET a real swamp person and marveled at the fact that he makes a living working crawfish
pots and catching bullfrogs. Further, I was fascinated by the fact that he goes “fishin” on his
day off! I MET a man that claimed to be a reality show star. When queried as to which one, he
responded “Swamp People and Swamp Bride”. He had a penchant for tall tales and long jokes.

I OBSERVED that prickly pear cactus can grow twenty feet from a Mississippi bayou and that
people in the deep south have an affinity for attack Dachshunds, miniature horses and longhorn
cattle. I even learned how those that are interested can determine the commercial value of a
prize bull! I ENJOYED seeing the stands of Longleaf Pine and a quick respite from the sun

under a massive Live Oak.

I WITNESSED countless small churches along four days-worth of two lane roads. I IMAGINED
the parishoners for whom the modest but impeccably maintained churches serve as the
backdrop for their entire social life. It was a calming backdrop to the sound of endless pickups
gunning their engines to pass the Challenge riders.

I was REMINDED of how peaceful a ride on a two lane road with friends can be and how quickly
life can change as I WITNESSED one of the young Challenge riders hit a pot hole, careen into
a passing pick-up truck, taco the front wheel, and land hard on the macadam. I SMILED as she
shook herself off and pressed on.

I was REMINDED of Steph’s incredible capacity for good conversation, humor, friendship and
fidelity; what some of us refer to as Beta spirit. It is the spirit to take a quick break to adjust a
brace and stretch a weary leg, and then without a word, ride on down the road. It is the spirit
to refer to a headwind as a cooling breeze. It is the spirit to spend a quarter mile on an uphill
grade pushing the gear shifter to eke out the last and biggest cog on the chain wheel when
there is a friend three feet behind that could easily assist. It is the spirit to encounter a bridge
out and cheerfully turn around in search of a detour. It is the spirit to stare down a ten mile
causeway leading to a steep bridge and slowly but surely crest the top and the natural smile that
comes with every challenging climb; a breathtaking glide to the bottom.

I WITNESSED the singular focus of a man on a mission. Each day for Steph comes with a
goal; be it another state, a certain number of miles “under our belts”, or a certain geographical
landmark. He is conscious of the schedules of the many Challenge riders despite his broken
brace, pressure sores, dehydration, sunburn, not to mention a body that constantly battles with
a stronger mind to press on. I WITNESSED the focus of a man determined not just to complete
his journey but to do it on schedule.

Finally, I was REMINDED of the reason that the Challenge exists. For Steph, I believe, it is
much more than completing a cross country ride, a dream that I know he has had for a very
long time. Beyond that, my few days on the ride REMINDED me that Steph is riding to pay
tribute to the RIC, an institution without which our friend Steph could bluntly be just a memory.
Witnessing Steph ride up the road, I can CONFIRM that miracles happen when world class
facilities, dedicated professionals, and a man that refuses to say “can’t” come together. In
honor of our friend, support the RIC!

Finally, to parrot Lincoln Baker, “It’s all good!” and Steph, “Be well.”

Best…Hodge

Forest Gump by Colin Hall

At lunch along the 190 East trail a car stopped and a very nice lady approached our group.  She had seen a news story about Steph on the local TV station and wanted to come meet Steph.

She spoke to Mark and the group for about 15 minutes.  She explained that she has a special needs child who is 23 years old.  She asked Mark to stop at the nearby town of Elton to meet the Mayor, enjoy some refreshments and speak to her son.  Of course Mark obliged.

After she left the group, we were all sitting around amazed at the impact Mark has made on strangers along the route.  Mark sensed our contemplations and quipped “I am Forest Frickin’ Gump.”

No Mark… allow me to publicly correct you.  You are Mark Frickin’ Stephan!

A little bit of everything

Started this morning with clear sky’s, the same headwind but we we hoping for a long mileage day. We got through downtown Pensacola with Mike’s expert navigation. The day was heating up but the cooling breeze of the ocean made it seem cooler. Just outside Pensacola is Pensacola bluffs a very steep rolling area, it was brutal, just when you thought it was going to be flat, it slaps you in face. We broke for lunch and were joined by my good friend peter heck. We did one more set of rollers, hit a flat busy street and rolled up some miles. We had a great bike path at end of day, called it at 530 with 50 miles down. The ride was very painful for me, my foot was killing me. To make a long story short it was back to the ER for an iv of antibiotics and pain meds. The foot has an infected pressure sore. It has not broken skin but is delicate. The ER people were very nice I have drugs to get in morning and we will push on. My friends Jon Lewin and Jeff Willian are in and I said goodbye to lead navigator. Mike Kerr.
Going to be late start tomorrow!
Be well,
Steph

 

florida! here we are

left the hotel a little later this morning, mike, tom, louise and i pushed off from where the ferry had dropped us in fort morgan al. the morning started tough with a stiff headwind, the scenary was great, but we were not getting far. after lunch things got worse……..one of the only things that can shut us down happened, my leg brace broke, we had a spare but a stripped screw made it ineffective. we do what we do on this trip, we let lincoln figure out a way to couble one brace from the two. we know have a frankinbike and a frankinbrace, but wear and tear is starting to show on our equipment and our bodies, we need to hang on.
the afternoon brought cooler temps and lighter winds, we had a bike lane and sailed into florida, we put in 40 miles and are 16 miles out of pensacola. we say goodbye to the flickenger’s but my friends the myniers arrived to join mike to get me another leg.
thank you for keeping an eye on us and for supporting the RIC.
be well,
steph

headwinds

we left in the morning a little early, the goal ws to beat some of the persistent headwinds that we have encountered.
they are a steady 15 mph out of the east and have been slowing us down and burning energy. the winds were early as well,but it does keep it cooler as we had no cloud cover. you can really smell the gulf as you get close and it was really nice riding, good pavement as we watch the gulls dive for food. a late lunch and then some of the toughest riding of the trip. the 12 miles to douphine island over the 10 mile bridge. we caught the ferry to fort morgan and were met by tom and louise flickenger who will start with us this morning.
we say good bye to joel press, margaret tumas, david tenney and jim colley. my sincere thanks for their humor and good cheer over a tough stretch.
we will be in florida by the end of today.
be well,
steph